The typical temporary classroom, introduced in the 1960’s as a quick-fix solution for overflow needs, are not generally welcoming learning environments. The natural light is often limited, and air-flow restricted, additionally, although the classrooms are designed for 5-year life-spans they often become permanent, poorly maintained constructions that have a detrimental impact on learning and teaching.
As approximately 7.5 million children currently study in this style of classroom in the U.S (sprout space), there is a need for change and a re-think in design.
Sprout Space by the architecture firm Perkins+Will, developed a design that won the 2009 Open Design Challenge from Architecture for Humanity and have recently announced completion of the design of these classrooms. The classrooms incorporate green building strategies that reduce energy costs and create a healthier environment, but at the same time are cost effective to construct and maintain. Some of the design initiatives include:
- Butterfly shaped roof – allowing for extra sunlight to enter the room and a funnelling system where rainwater is diverted to class-side funnels.
- Roof-top solar sheets linked to real-time website for monitoring power use.
- Constructed using 99.9% recyclable and reusable materials
- Lifespan of 40+ years – so can be permanent or semi-permanent.
- Natural ventilation allowing fresh air into the rooms to improve the indoor air quality.
- LED lighting and lighting controls
- Efficient heating and cooling systems
A Sprout space classroom will be installed on the lawn at the National Building Museum in Washington DC later this year so people can touch and see it for themselves. It’s part of a Green Schools exhibition that will provide the public with an insight into what’s possible in terms of green buildings in schools.
These designs provide for a healthier environment and better learning environments for students. As the public is becoming more aware of the benefits of better learning environments on children’s health and educational performance and the need to create sustainable buildings, there is a paradigm shift occurring as parents, students and teachers look to mandate these better building designs into their schools.
The seed collaborative has developed a similar project, the ‘seed classroom’. The seed classroom sustains itself by the sunlight and water that falls on it’s roof and the space educates students about sustainable practices.
The seed classroom consists of 3 modules which can be shipped anywhere in the world. There is one core module that houses all of the systems that the classroom needs to be self-sustaining, so once the modules arrive on site they are immediately functional. The seed classroom also comes with hands-on lessons that connect the students to the building.
Not all of the green building concepts are new, but combining environmental initiatives with what we know about effective learning environments is a win/win for schools. Additionally, the more these designs become mainstream, the more cost effective they will become, making them more likely to be available for schools worldwide.
This is a design solution for a social issue that also provides and example for how incorporating sustainability can be cost effective, better for the environment and better for people.